Sign of the Hammer!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Annual Incoming!

Art by Dave Candlish
As we speak (are we speaking? I am, anyway) Davey Candlish labours on this year’s PARAGON Annual, like Hephaestus at his forge, hammering panels into shape and beating scripts to even out the blemishes. It is said that this very week the annual will be unleashed upon mortals, its contents only guessable by the prophetic or the insane.

And that’s all true – except that there’s one bit I don’t need to guess at, for my own contribution this year is another Spencer Nero prose story. I enjoy writing these, particularly the conversations between Spencer and Mr. Alabaster: necessity dictates that the latter doesn’t get a lot of panel-time in the regular strip, so it’s always fun to flesh out their increasingly fractious relationship. (The trick seems to be that one of the pair is always trying to annoy the other – but who’s being irritating and who’s being reasonable frequently alternates.)

Anyway, more word on the annual itself once it’s out, but for now, here’s a special sneak preview of my tale, Spencer Nero’s Secret, which reveals a hitherto unknown* and extremely alarming fact about the Civil Centurion – a fact which may lead to his downfall! What is Spencer’s secret? Oh, all right, I’ll tell you. Read on:

A strange and awkward silence fell as Spencer looked at his hands. He was gripped by a piercing chill, as if buffeted by the icy winds of the grim North Sea.


“Are you all right?” Alabaster asked, noting the Civil Centurion’s sudden pallor.


“I… have a confession,” stammered Spencer queasily.


Alabaster smiled benignly, like a disapproving but not entirely unsympathetic uncle. “Spencer,” he began. “Is this about your secret collection of - ?”


“No!” interrupted Spencer. “This is worse. Much worse.” He paused, trying to collect himself. “It’s been my hidden shame for so long,” he finally blurted out. “I’ve never been able to admit it. I just couldn’t accept it was true. But the fact is…” He dropped suddenly to his knees, clutching his head in his hands. He tried again to speak. “The fact is…”


“Yes?” prompted Alabaster.

Oh, hold on. Turns out I’m not allowed to let it slip after all. Buy the PARAGON Annual if you want to find out!

*Well, unknown unless you bought the Spencer Nero Compendium.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Judged Read

Bet no-one’s ever done that pun before. (Cough.) Here’s a couple of reviews from Judge Tutor Semple aka Steve Hargett, a true gent who has cast his concise and critical eye over several things I’ve written in the past. Thanks for these, Steve!

Review for Martillo - "...a damn fine read", as Steve described it on the 2000AD forums.

And on the subject of Martillo - if you're at Thought Bubble in Leeds in a few weeks time, expect to see David Broughton with stories of Spanish smiting on sale!

Madre de Dios indeed!

PARAGON #17: One Hump or Two?

Blimey, it’s been a while since the blog got an update. I’ve had plenty of things bubbling away in the formative stages, but not much out on the proverbial shelves to talk about. I can’t say I’ve got much more out this month – just an eccentric little three-pager in PARAGON #17 – but it’s not like I need an excuse to wax lyrical in a self-indulgent manner, so here’s the gen on Spencer Nero and the Dry Camel.

The first thing to mention is that this tale is taken in large part from American history and folklore – specifically the legend of the Red Ghost of Arizona, a camel with a headless military rider. Remarkably, camels were imported into the US in the 1850s for work in more arid regions – unfortunately, their surly dispositions and general unreliability made them less of an improvement on mules than might have been hoped. The ‘star’ of this particular story is the surliest of ‘em all – but that’s camels for you. They’re like the wasps of the mammal world, in terms of temperament. 

Despite this, the title of the tale hails from a song whose lyrics suggest an uncharacteristic (and, dare I say it, decidedly unwholesome) fondness for our dromedary chums - ‘From a Dry Camel’, by the wonderful early-70s rockers Dust. Spooky, psychedelic, and unutterably desert-y – and to partner it, I also sneaked the title of an equally atmospheric song by contemporaries Mountain into the narration. Bonus points if you can spot it. I am nothing if not shameless in parading my influences.
Art (and letters) are by the lovely Jim Cameron. This is the first story of mine Jim has drawn and he’s done a smashing job – although his style is cartoony, the camel is not without a sinister streak, and at times has a dose of Richard Corben-style creepiness about its sneering visage. (Jim also lends his charms to another rhyming Ganesh tale elsewhere in the issue.)

Meanwhile in PARAGON, the pages are dominated once more by a welcome double hit of El Chivo’s art on both Jikan and El Bigote. There’s also a chilling three-page one-off written by Davey Candlish and drawn by Baz Renshaw (new to PARAGON? One to watch - this story might be my favourite bit of the issue) along with a spot of two-fisted trans-temporalism in Bulldog and Panda. A line-up that, unlike the aforementioned camel, really holds water and is nothing to spit at!

“But wait,” you say. “A two-pager last time and a three-pager this time – aren’t you writing any longer PARAGON stories?” I’m glad you asked – and all being well, before the year is out, you might just see something a bit more substantial making its long-awaited (by me, anyway) debut in the magazine – something involving music, murder, mystery...  and this man:

Coming soon - Candlish permitting!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Hammer Over Bristol

Just a quick post to point out that this week, ‘Martillo’ goes live! True, you could already buy the Spanish smiting saga online via Comicsy, but this weekend (May 10th & 11th 2014), artist extraordinaire Mr. David Broughton will be selling copies in the flesh* at Bristol Comic Expo! If you’re going to the con, be sure to stop by David’s table (signalled by a great big whopping ‘Martillo’ banner) and pick up a copy! And if you’ve already got one, get hold of David’s latest project, written, drawn and lettered entirely by the chap in question. It’s called ‘Shaman Kane’ and is a 32-page Broughton-fest which involves one man’s struggles with extraterrestrial evil. More info here.

*(Flesh-bound copies sadly not available.)

Friday, 2 May 2014

Tree's Company: PARAGON #16 Branches Out

Spring has sprung, flowers are in bloom and the latest PARAGON has hit the proverbial stands, chockfull of nature’s bounty. Not that I’m suggesting great comics grow on trees, but my small contribution, a somewhat experimental ‘Spencer Nero’ two-pager, certainly features plenty of bark, and hopefully a little bite. The story is based around my strange fascination with metal-eating trees, focusing specifically on The Bicycle Tree of Brig O’ Turk in the Trossachs, albeit suitably embellished. Not that such things are unique to the Loch Lomond neck of the woods – here’s a photo I took of a hungry tree near the village of Strichen.

Art on ‘The Bicycle Tree’ is by small-press star James Corcoran, with a particularly pivotal lettering job by John Caliber. The original plan was to do the story as two nine-panel grids, but it’s ended up as two splash pages instead – probably for the best, particularly when it comes to showcasing James’s sublime art. And indeed, corking art is the order of the day in #16, with a lovely double dose of the fantastic El Chivo, the Newell / Candlish combo breathing life into Mark Howard’s ‘Bludd and Xandi’ (haven’t read that one yet, looking forward to it!) and, of course, the PARAGON debut of Jason Cobley’s legendary Bulldog, ably handled by Stephen Prestwood (see, Prestwood – another tree connection!) By sheer coincidence, I happened to pick up two ‘Bulldog’ collections in Aberdeen’s Oxfam Books quite recently –  they’re the work of a man who clearly has comics flowing through his very veins. Cracking stuff – the new story is a real highlight of the issue.

And so it only remains to suggest you pick up a copy – c'mon, don’t be a sap!